David Phillips and the Holy Grail

By Doug Geogerian

Is it a coincidence that David Phillips issued his book on TARC only two months before the worldwide commemorations of the Armenian genocide? Was it merely happenstance that Ambassador Evans described the Armenian genocide as a crime without legal consequences–seven weeks before April 24?

Frankly–I have my doubts.

With the continuing success of Armenian efforts to gain genocide recognition from European states–and with the urgency created by negotiations over Turkey’s ascension to the Euroepan Union–Turkey can no longer rely on stonewalling. Apparently–it is relying on its friends in the US government to find a way to foster a weak acknowledgment of the genocide and then quickly shove it under the rug. The aim is to make sure that Armenia and some elemen’s in the Armenian Diaspora first disavow any claims for reparations or return of territories–in other words truth without justice.

Then Turkey can tell the Europeans to open the doors to the EU without any pesky genocide issue hanging over their heads and without fear of paying a price for having murdered a nation.

David Phillips and his long-time boss–Marc Grossman–a top State Department official–need a pliant Armenian government if they are to push through such political concessions. In his book–Unsilencing the Past–Phillips frowns upon Robert Kocharian and Vartan Oskanian for representing the interests of the Armenian people instead of those of Turkey and the US. For example–both the State Department and Phillips went out of their way to criticize the presidential elections in Armenia while largely ignoring the corrupt elections in Azerbaijan that has resulted in a hereditary ruler being installed. The hope is obviously to weaken the Armenian government’s standing internationally.

Specialists of the Caucasus will need to evaluate the book–which does not seem to arise from a critical assessment of accurate sources. Rather–Unsilencing the Past sounds more like a tale–which centers around its hero–David Phillips–and his pursuit of the "holy grail," which for Phillips is opening up Armenia to US geopolitical interests.

Using the genre of historical fantasy–Phillips attributes extraordinary powers to himself–and then claims that the Armenian government acknowledges these powers. TARC was an example of Phillip’s Track Two method of conflict mediation. In the book–he "solves" problems with Track Two much as King Arthur swung Excalibur in countless battles. Phillips writes–"Though it is hard to quantify the effect of Track Two–Oskanian acknowledged its important role promoting rapprochement between the governmen’s of Turkey and Armenia. For example–Track Two helped create a climate making possible a change in Turkey’s stance on Armenia’s membership in the World Trade Organization–which paved the way for Armenia’s accession in 2003."

David Phillips doesn’t mention that the World Trade Organization (WTO) forbids any member nation from blockading another. The reader lacking the requisite amount of naivet may ask–"On what grounds could Turkey prevent Armenia–which the IMF and the World Bank credit with having rapidly liberalized its economy–from joining the WTO?" Whatever Turkey’s reasons were–Phillips must have vanquished them. Somewhere in his back pocket–he has a thank you note from Vartan Oskanian to prove it.

The Armenian people don’t play a big role in this tale. David Phillips prefers to write about single individuals–with whom he endows with incredible powers. Take another monumental figure in the book–Van Krikorian. "Under the chairmanship of Van Kirkorian–The Armenian Assembly of America made sure that Armenia benefited handsomely from resources made available to NIS countries through the Freedom Support Act," explains the narrator. A million Armenian-Americans and the US government’s interests are not the reasons for over a billion dollars of foreign assistance. One vastly powerful lobbyist is. Such analysis gives Unsilencing the Past a certain comic book quality.

David Phillips’ tale offers not only adventure–but moral lessons as well. When asked by an Armenian if he believed there was a genocide–Phillips responds by sticking to his principles–"I could not possibly serve as an objective facilitator if I was partial to one side or the other. My only interest was enabling Turks and Armenia’s to discuss their differences–acknowledge the past–and move on." The hero of our story will not let genocide prevention become an obstacle to breaking down an inconvenient trade barrier.

In European literature of the Middle Ages–noble figures like Parsifal and King Arthur searched for the holy grail–which represented the embodiment of truth and justice–the ultimate spiritual resource for restoring society to goodness. Those obstructing the pursuit of the holy grail represented the epitome of evil. In the story of Unsilencing the Past–David Phillips sees "the Dashnaks" as his greatest nemesis to a penetrated Armenian border.

Phillips depicts "the vocal-and vicious" nature of his enemy. He says–"First and foremost–Dashnaks use genocide recognition to solicit money from the Armenian Diaspora. They believe that Turkey must pay for its crimes by returning land and confiscated property. . . They also use their campaign to acquire political and economic power. To Dashnaks–TARC was an insidious device undermining their reason for being. If reconciliation occurs–they have no reason to exist."

Phillips has the monstrous Dashnaks bringing down TARC. He tries to convince the reader that his only enemy is one political party–when in reality he’s up against a politically aware Armenian people. TARC’s unpopularity was rivaled perhaps by Levon Ter Petrosian’s–who–according to Phillips–"broke ground by favoring normal relations with Turkey."Normal" in this context means acceding to Azerbaijan’s control over Karabagh and Armenia not raising the Genocide issue. "Normal" means accommodating the priorities of the US elite and its proxies by dismantling Armenia’s best chances for freedom.

Through his tale–Mr. Phillips offers two important lessons: Don’t let history get in the way of telling your side of the story and don’t let morality get in the way of doing what’s right. It will surely become a classic in Turkish governmental literature.

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